Samsung is the king of using AMOLED displays on its phones, but until now it has only dabbled with the possibilities of showing ambient information on the display when it would otherwise be completely off. With the Galaxy S7, Samsung has added what it calls an "always-on" display (or AOD, if you like) that lets the locked phone show a little bit of information on what would otherwise be a dead black screen.
Samsung is hardly the first to do this, with the best existing examples being Motorola, Google and OnePlus who all light up portions of the locked screen to give you bits of information. But it's better late than never here — this is what the always-on display looks like on the Galaxy S7.
Jump into the phone's settings, and you'll see that your always-on display options are pretty simple. You can choose to show a clock, a calendar or a background image, and depending which you choose you'll have just a few more configuration options. You have seven clock choices with different looks, but a recurring theme is showing icons for your unread notifications. The calendar shows a full month with the time, date and battery percentage. The background image may be the most interesting, where you can choose from a handful of mostly-black images that show a pop of color and pattern on the display.
While we'd argue this system doesn't have as much usefulness as what Google is doing in Marshmallow on the latest Nexuses or even what Motorola does, adding more information to a screen that would usually just be off is a great thing. Seeing the date, time, battery percentage and notifications are much of what we just turn on our screens for throughout the day, and it just makes sense to have them sitting there.
Samsung's use of AMOLED displays means there shouldn't be any worry about battery drain when using this feature, either, as AMOLED displays allow only the pixels that are needed to be turned on instead of the whole display panel. Samsung is saying that the feature should only consume about one percent of your battery over the course of the day, and when you factor in the reduced number of times you'll turn on the whole display just to check the time, you may even come out ahead in terms of battery use.
Worried about screen burn-in? Samsung has thought of this, too. Though the information displayed looks to often be a static image, the software is actually regularly shifting the pixels ever-so-slightly so that the same ones aren't used over and over again. This eliminates worry about those pixels "burning in" the lock screen image, and it's one you won't even notice happening. The phone also won't display the information when it detects it's in a pocket or a bag, and if you just don't like the feature you can always turn it off completely.
It's just one of the many Galaxy S7 features that show Samsung is still moving along in interesting ways with its software development.